Nihan Yesil

Pondery, A Chamber Opera


Nihan is a composer and multi-media artist. She works with old-fashioned overhead projectors to create imaginative visual stories in the style of traditional shadow theater.As a composer she works both with acoustic and electronic media.  Nihan's CV

Project Description

Pondery is a one-act chamber opera for shadow play.  Most of the act takes place behind a shadow screen where the performers present the story as silhouettes creating an alternate reality. The work takes inspiration from the tradition of Shadow Theater, and is an homage to composer, György Ligeti who always wanted to write an opera based on Alice in Wonderland, but passed away before he could start the work. The story leans towards an Absurdist approach, much like Alice in Wonderland. While the work presents an enjoyable story for young audiences, the subtext intends to capture the older audience members. Lilly's adventure is a symbolism for a contemplative experience, a journey into self-discovery. 

The libretto is based on an original short story for the cast of five, and it is scored for six instruments (Pierrot ensemble). One night, Lilly, the heroine of the story, starts watching the shadows cast by the moon on her bedroom wall as she tries to fall asleep. As the shadows get livelier and look less like regular shadows, curious, Lilly decides to explore them only to find herself in another realm. Characters of the story guide her in this shadow realm--a metaphor for her subconscious in sleep-state--through her adventures.

How will this project fit into Nihan's larger body of work?

As a composer and mutli-media artist, I bring my current interests and focus in both disciplines together in this work in a much larger scale.  The idea of storytelling through silhouettes is used occasionally in dance. I am interested in exploring the possibilities and applications in opera and music theater settings.

What kind of impact will the project have?

I aim to encourage people to rethink their assumptions on traditional art forms, in this case, Opera and Shadow Theater, and lead them to new discoveries about how they personally connect to works in these genres while posing the questions, "What makes an image? Can a silhouette be livelier than an image in full detail?" 

An image reduced to a silhouette reaches each individual differently forcing them to fill in the blanks with their imagination, thus creating a more personal experience.

How will this project act as a catalyst for Nihan's artistic and professional growth?

This project, by far, is the most involved and complicated piece of work I have set out to accomplish. It has been creating new challenges for me as it evolves.  The process of problem solving lead me to explore new visions within a short period. This project is the first work for which I have created the music and visual art simultaneously. They have been feeding off of each other, and helping me discover myself anew in the process. This has been the most holistic work I created.

A short montage from "Mirage" for fixed audio, dance, and overhead projector.   Music and projection by Nihan Yesil.  Choreography by Asli Yesil.

"Mirage" trailer from Nihan Yesil on Vimeo.

A segment from "Spiral of Service" for overhead projector and dance.  Music and projection by Nihan Yesil.  Choreography by Mary Pinizzotto.

Spiral of Service from Nihan Yesil on Vimeo.